Patriots Draft: Pats Mining For Diamonds

The Patriots continue to show interest in small school prospects. New England scouts have scoured the country for late round steals which have generally turned out well for them in the past. Now they're looking at another prospect who has soared from undrafted free agent status to become that "diamond in the rough" teams covet on day two of the Draft.

For a virtually unknown NFL draft prospect just a few months ago, Jacoby Jones is rapidly losing his obscurity.The Division II star wide receiver and return specialist from Lane College (Tenn.) has parlayed intriguing size, athleticism and a strong East-West Shrine game into major attention from around the league as the draft approaches.

That interest includes the a number of playoff teams from last year including the Baltimore Ravens, San Diego Chargers, Philadelphia Eagles and New England Patriots.

Baltimore receivers coach Mike Johnson attended Jones' Pro Day workout along with Tennessee Titans offensive coordinator Norm Chow and Detroit Lions receivers coach Kippy Brown.

"I don't think Jacoby is a sleeper anymore," said Jones' agent, Harold Lewis. "His best football is ahead of him."

The New Orleans native is slated for nine visits in 14 days, including trips to Philadelphia, San Diego, the Tennessee Titans, St. Louis Rams, Minnesota Vikings, Pittsburgh Steelers, Kansas City Chiefs and Houston Texans. The New England Patriots have scheduled Jones for a private workout.

Lewis said seven other teams requested visits from Jones, but he couldn't fit them in because April 20 is the last day that NFL clubs can schedule incoming rookie visits. "It's been nonstop interest," Lewis said.

At 6-foot-2, 210 pounds, Jones flashed 4.53 speed in the 40-yard dash at the NFL scouting combine and recorded a 10-foot-9 broad jump. He gained four pounds by his campus workout and ran a 4.50 on natural grass. He has the physical size and speed to earn the label of a "diamond in the rough."

"He's a great kid," Lewis said. "He's a refreshing Terrell Owens because he's big and fast without the attitude problems."

Lewis' assessment isn't just agent's speak to pump up his client, it's proving true wherever Jones goes. On a recent Sirius NFL radio interview, Jones sang along to the tune "Respect" by Aretha Franklin as the hosts Pat Kirwan and Tim Ryan listened in prodded him to continue. Jones' attitude was about giving his small college some due respect, and made light of the situation with his hosts.

A week later Jones echoed the respect sentiment. After finishing a visit to the Minnesota Vikings facility, Jones was on the show again talking about respect. "When I was at the East-West game and everybody had their helmets with their big logo, they turned to me and said 'Dude, what is Lane?' That chip on my shoulder just bigger. So the next time I was at practice I wanted to explode." He did, and turned in one of the more impressive performances there according to TFY Draft Preview ( East / West Practice Report).

Jones has admitted it isn't easy to make the jump from a small school to an NFL club, but he insists he's ready for the challenge. "When you come from a small school that lacks the facilities and certain things an athlete needs, that makes you appreciate things more." Jones said on Sirius. "So when you do get it, you appreciate it."

"I've heard a lot of people compare me to Marques Colston," Jones said of the New Orleans Saints receiver in an interview with the Philadelphia Tribune. "It makes me feel good because he didn't come from a big school, but he proved that he could play in the NFL."

Jones caught four passes for 57 yards at the East-West game, the same venue where Colston gained prominence a year ago prior to becoming a late round steal. Colson starred as a rookie after being a seventh-round pick from Hofstra last year.

Jones initially signed a track scholarship with Southeastern Louisiana before transferring to Lane in 2003.

He caught 200 career passes for 2,750 yards and 21 touchdowns. As a senior, he registered 68 receptions for 822 yards and six touchdowns, running back three kicks for touchdowns.

Jones brings the kind of value the Patriots like in a player; a hard-working, determined young talent with speed and a chip on his shoulder to prove the world was wrong to overlook him. Aside from the big school pedigree, Jones has a lot of Tom Brady's inner drive pushing him to be the best he can be. New England would be fortunate to land Jones in the same round they acquired Brady (6th). At this point, Jones stock is moving up the boards as fast as he flew around the track in college and teams would be foolish to believe he'll last long on second day.

Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for and the Carroll County Times of Maryland. Jon Scott of contributed to this report.

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